HBO is still the heavy

Times Staff Writer

PROLIFERATING cable networks -- widely perceived to have expanded experimental and quality television programming beyond the offerings of HBO -- had a scattered showing against the premium cable powerhouse at Thursday’s Emmy nominations.

Showtime, in particular, had mounted an extensive campaign for its new, critically lauded original programs such as “Dexter,” a show starring Michael C. Hall as a sympathetic serial killer, “The Tudors” and “Brotherhood” but came up with just 17 nominations.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. July 21, 2007 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday July 21, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 40 words Type of Material: Correction
‘Meerkat Manor’: An article in Friday’s Calendar section about how cable TV outlets fared in the competition for Emmy Award nominations said that the Discovery Channel’s nominations included nods for “Meerkat Manor.” That series is on the Animal Planet channel.

HBO, on the other hand, logged 86 nominations, including 15 for “The Sopranos,” seven for “Entourage” and four for Ricky Gervais’ “Extras.” “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” alone, an HBO movie produced by Dick Wolf, won 17 nominations -- more than Wolf’s iconic series “Law & Order” ever has. Wolf said the long-running series had established a reputation of quality for his company. He called the movie “an attempt to show we can do it outside the format of an hour drama.”

Carolyn Strauss, president of HBO Entertainment, said the network was “really happy” about the recognition bestowed on “The Sopranos” and its other series. “And we’re excited that a show like ‘Extras’ popped out the way it did.”


But other than “Entourage,” most of the HBO programs that were recognized Thursday have ended their runs, such as “Deadwood” and “Rome.”

Richard Licata, executive vice president of communications for Showtime, said he was happy with the acting nominations for “Weeds” (Mary Louise Parker and Elizabeth Perkins). “An actor like Michael C. Hall deserved to be acknowledged for his performance [in ‘Dexter’], but I’m not quite sure how the process works.”

Basic cable was generously rewarded in a variety of ways: Kyra Sedgwick was nominated for lead actress in TNT’s “The Closer,” Denis Leary for lead actor in FX’s “Rescue Me.” Cable dominated the miniseries and made-for-television categories with: USA’s “The Starter Wife,” an adaptation of Gigi Levangie Grazer’s novel about a Hollywood divorcee, AMC’s “Broken Trail,” an epic tale of the American West and the network’s first original movie, along with PBS’ “Prime Suspect: The Final Act.”

Movies competing for an Emmy will be: HBO’s “Longford” and “Bury My Heart,” Discovery’s “Inside the Twin Towers,” TNT’s “The Ron Clark Story” and Lifetime’s “Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy.”

Director Alan Taylor, who got his first Emmy nomination Thursday for his work on “The Sopranos,” said HBO remained influential even without its biggest hits. “HBO created a way of doing business and popular art, and I think a lot of places are watching that very carefully,” Taylor said. “I think AMC would have to admit they’re taking a page from HBO’s playbook.”

Walter Hill, director of AMC’s “Broken Trail,” said, “It’s no secret HBO has been the leader in cable filmmaking.... Cable is about niche audiences, and that’s one of the reasons we had our success. And you have to have a good story and you have to tell it well.”

The Discovery Channel received 16 nominations for programs including “Deadliest Catch,” “Planet Earth” and “Meerkat Manor.”


Times staff writers Matea Gold and Maria Elena Fernandez contributed to this report.